What to Grow in a Kitchen Garden

Kitchen garden design and plant ideas

February 21, 2019
Tomatoes for Kitchen Garden

Kitchen gardens are making a comeback! We all want the freshest and most nutritious, flavorful food possible. What could be easier than having the fixin’s for tonight’s supper growing right outside the back door? 

Imagine waking up in the morning and breakfasting on your own garden—gathering gold orange cherry tomatoes or strawberries for breakfast.  Cultivating a garden full of your favorite vegetables is a practical way to save a bundle on your grocery bill and it also makes meal planning a snap.

What’s great about a kitchen garden is that it can be manageable, not overwhelming.  Start small! How about a simple raised bed that’s 12 x 12 feet? Plan your kitchen garden with your favorite foods in mind. Here are some ideas!

Delicious Dishes


  • Love Italian cuisine? Plant lots of ‘San Marzano’ paste tomatoes, ‘Corno di Toro’ peppers, ‘Genovese’ basil, and ‘Cocozelle’ squash.


  • Crave spring salads? Who could resist tender lettuces you’d never find in the grocery store such as ‘Blushed Butter’, ‘Flashy Trout Back’, or ‘Little Gem’ and don’t forget thin-skinned ‘Diva’ cukes, crispy radishes, and ‘Sungold’ cherry tomatoes.


  • Planning on canning? You’ll want to grow plenty of ‘Boston Pickling’ cucumbers, ‘Bouquet’ dill, and ‘Blue Lake’ pole beans for making pickles and dilly beans.


  • Salsa a staple on your table? Tailor your garden to your taste by growing peppers with just the right amount of spice. Try ‘Ancho’ for slight heat, ‘Early Jalapeno’ for medium fire, or crazy-hot ‘Ghost’ peppers for the true chile-heads.
  • Do you detect a theme? Just as meal planning is easier when you work around a theme, gardens can have themes too. Think ethnic—Thai, Greek, French, Mexican, Russian—whatever family your favorite  foods belong to. Those specialty vegetables that would cost you dearly at the store can be easily grown at home.
  • Go Gourmet! To really save money, try growing the pricey gourmet foods that you love but can’t afford to buy. Arugula, endive, edamame, filet beans, purple asparagus, white eggplant, shallots, and mesclun are easy to grow.

Planning a Kitchen Garden

If you lack a good sunny location for your garden in the backyard, your kitchen garden will look good enough to grow out front. Ideally, it’s close enough to the house that you can access a hose or a spigot.

Your soil should have good drainage. You’ll probably need to amend most soils with compost or organic matter. If your soil is really poor, consider raised beds and buying soil and organic composted manure.

Remember, many vegetables can be decorative as well as nourishing. Frilly, red-leaved lettuces make a colorful edible edging, scarlet runner beans or purple-podded pole beans are beautiful as well as tasty, and ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss chard comes in an array of eye-catching neon colors. If garden space is at a premium, just plant what you love most and enjoy it at its peak.

Inspired to plan a kitchen garden?  See some sample kitchen garden layouts and start dreaming!

About This Blog

Get inspired by Robin Sweetser’s backyard gardening tips and tricks. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer’s Market.